Solo attorney, Joleena Louis, contemplates the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a law clerk vs. virtual assistant to expand her solo law practice.
One of my goals for 2015 was to expand my practice by hiring my first employee.
This is one I have been putting on the backburner because while I could really use the help, I have a number of concerns, the biggest being financial cost. I’m not quite at the point where I can afford to pay a full time salaried employee.
After talking to a few other solos, I narrowed down my options to a virtual assistant or legal intern law clerk and have researched the advantages and disadvantages.
Virtual Assistant: The Pros
The biggest benefit of a virtual assistant is you only pay them as needed and you can get basic tasks done very cheaply. Fiverr, Fancy Hands and Ruby Receptionists are all affordable options, depending on the tasks you need help with. Taskrabbit is also a great option if you need someone to run errands, stuff envelopes, help you organize your office, and so forth.
Salary is not the only financial consideration when hiring an employee, there are other costs like additional office space, a phone, computer, etc. A virtual assistant could work from their own home so I would not have to worry about those additional costs.
Almost everything I would need help with could be done from anywhere and if needed we could meet in person to discuss projects.
Since virtual assistants are independent contractors I would not have to worry about employee taxes or benefits. They could also have language or marketing skills that could be beneficial to my practice.
Virtual Assistant: The Cons
Virtual Assistants can be located anywhere in the country or the world.
In some cases this is good because they can finish a job from anywhere, but there may be some situations where I needed assistance with things in person. This is where it becomes a double-edged sword.
I would need to hire someone local so that I could meet with them in person at regular intervals.
Another con is the virtual assistant may not have a legal background and I would only feel comfortable giving them basic administrative tasks.
Law Clerk: The Pros
A law clerk could also mostly work remotely with the same benefits as a virtual assistant. It will also be much easier to find a law student from one of the local schools.
Having a law clerk could also be a great way to vet and train a future associate. If I hired a 2L, by the time they graduated and were admitted to the bar, my practice would be at a point when I was ready for an associate. I would be able to give a legal intern basic legal research and writing tasks in addition to administrative tasks.
Law Clerk: The Cons
Law Clerks are primarily looking for experience so I would feel guilty about giving them too many basic administrative tasks. Having a clerk would also require more personal interaction, which means more of a time investment on my end.
I can see the benefits of a law clerk and a virtual assistant and ultimately think I will use a mixture of both to meet my needs. I may use Fancy Hands to help me put together a newsletter and hire an intern to help with research over the summer.
Hiring help is a huge step for a solo, but these virtual options make it easier to get the assistance we need as we need it.
Do you have experience with law clerks and virtual assistants? Comment below and give us your thoughts!
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Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a ﬁrm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial ﬁrm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ start-up program in Downtown, New York. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew… explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law ﬁrm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur.